starring Raffaëla Anderson, Karen Bach
written and directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, based on the novel by Despentes
by Walter Chaw Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi's Baise-moi (translated as "Rape Me" in the U.S., "Fuck Me" internationally) is a wallow in the murk of exploitation cinema not-cleverly disguised as a commentary on the evils of pornography and the violent objectification of women. Maybe it's not disguised at all: Baise-moi subverts porn conventions with graphic (phallic) gun violence overlaying explicit, unsimulated penetration--the clumsy juxtaposition clearly intended to forward the idea that penetration and money shots in porn are the equivalent of getting shot and welters of gore. (The late Linda Lovelace described her legendary turn in seminal porno Deep Throat as a document of her rape.) Blood and semen, guns and dicks--the rationale behind the French phrase for orgasm meaning "a little death" is suddenly stripped of its more romantic lilt.
Manu (Raffaella Anderson) and Nadine (Karen Bach) are women who hate men, blaming sex and male sexual desire for a lifetime of victimization and misery. A rape is portrayed with the moment of insertion shown in clinical detail to emphasize the banal brutality of that violation, but like the traditional exploitation flicks Baise-moi sets its sights on, the victim is forgotten as soon as the deed is done. The picture is frustrating in its muddiness, its message confused by the amateurishness of every aspect of the production. Still, it appears as though Despentes and Thi (the latter, like the two leads, has some experience in the French porn industry) wish the clumsiness to be part and parcel with the point. The extent to which Baise-moi, essentially seventy-seven ugly minutes of hardcore sex and hardcore violence (think Fanny Hill and Natural Born Killers), works on an individual rests with that individual's willingness to take the film as theory rather than as art. It isn't that the picture is offensive so much as crude, its prurient interest flaccid and its gore moderately shocking. Only Baise-moi's pedagogy is well-defined and strident.
For the simplicity of its rage, however, Baise-moi earns a level of indulgence--it's unapologetic nihilism reminiscent of the rawness of Zarchi's I Spit on Your Grave and Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45. And while I prefer countrywoman Catherine Breillat's later films (Romance and especially Fat Girl), each of which expressing the same sort of message with a higher degree of poetry and technical proficiency, I suspect that Dispentes and Thi would condemn my desire for artistry in violent political art as part of the problem. Better discussed than actually watched (again, not for its offensiveness but for its general incompetence), Baise-moi makes its point with a minimum of pretense, its subtext made text and comprised of one long primal, senseless, yawp. But, though all viscera and no brain, Baise-moi is impossible to ignore in its chaotic wrath. Originally published: June 7, 2002.